The differing approaches to suspected law-breaking by Netanyahu and Palestinian MK Basel Ghattas expose just how selective the rule of law in Israel really is.
Law is a deceptive concept. We like to take pride in being “law-abiding citizens,” and so tend to reject and condemn members of our community who have broken the law. Joint List head Ayman Odeh, for example, was quick to voice his disapproval of the news concerning Basel Ghattas, a Knesset member in his party who is suspected of smuggling cellphones to Palestinian prisoners. Immediately after the reports regarding Ghattas surfaced in December, Odeh emphasized “the importance of respecting the law.”
This instinct is understandable: as citizens, we want to believe that our legal system is one based on fundamental ideas of morality and justice, which aims to order communal life for the benefit of all. This concept is particularly important for minorities, whom the rule of law is supposed to protect from the tyranny of the majority, while safeguarding their rights.
Perhaps this is why we tend to be more shocked when elected officials are caught breaking the law. The idea that someone involved in drafting the rules of the game would exempt themselves from those same laws appalls us, above all when it concerns the prime minister.
But we need to be precise here: the issue is not actually the fact that Netanyahu has, in all likelihood, broken the law. Observing the law is not in of itself a value. We are given to treat it as such because we need in our lives the idea that there is some relation between the law and principles of justice and morality; it helps us put ourselves on the “right side,” or at least helps us distinguish between the “good” and the “bad.”
Yet this distinction isn’t really connected to the law, and certainly not in a country where the law is used to uphold institutionalized theft, discrimination and exclusion of one group for the enrichment of the other. As Momo in the book “The Life Before Us” puts it: “The law…was made to protect the people with something to protect from other people.”
If the State of Israel enshrines land theft in law and calls it “formalization,” then I have no respect for the “rule of law.” If the state prevents residents...Read More